There has been a gradual disenchantment with President Barack Obama in India ever since he became the President in January 2009. Despite all the visuals of Obama in the company of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his statements and remarks relating to India made by him or on his behalf by his officials during Dr.Manmohan Singh’s much-hyped State visit to Washington DC in November last year and during his current visit for the Nuclear Security Summit, Obama’s actions in matters of interest and concern to India have been either unhelpful or detrimental to India. His positive vibrations for Pakistan have come out clearly on many occasions—-the latest being after his one-to-meeting with Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani of Pakistan in the margins of the Nuclear Security Summit. Whatever little I have studied of Obama since he first indicated his Presidential aspirations has strengthened my misgivings about him and created a suspicion in my mind that as a political leader he is as insincere as Richard Nixon though not as crude because he successfully hides his insincerity and as naïve as Jimmy Carter. I am giving below extracts from my articles on Obama written before he became the President for whatever they are worth.
Having an Obama In Its Future— Good Or Bad For Us (India)? ( http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers30/paper2905.html ) Written on October 30,2008)
By B. Raman
The world has seen made-in-the-Internet scholars, made-in-the-Internet stock-brokers, made-in-the-Internet lovers and even made-in-the-Internet terrorists.
If Senator Barack Obama is elected the President of the United States on November 4, the US and the rest of the world will be seeing for the first time a made-in-the-Internet President.
The way his advisers and entourage have effectively used the Internet to make him known to the people, to collect funds for him and to project him as a right-thinking person, who will take the US into a brave new world, will form the theme of many likely best-sellers if he wins the elections, as he seems destined to do.
Large sections of the American people are in a state of guilt—– over having suppressed the Blacks for so many years, over having supported President Bush and his Neo Conservatives in their Iraq adventure under the pretext of removing non-existent weapons of mass destruction, and over so many other perceived wrongs of the Bush Administration.
What better way of ridding themselves of their gnawing sense of guilt than to vote for a candidate, who is an Afro-American and who promises to rid the US of the legacies of the Bush administration. Just by casting their vote for him on November 4, they would in one stroke be able to get rid of all their guilt feelings and start a new life as Americans. So they think. As they stand before the voting machine, it will be their hour of the confessional —- that they were wrong in having supported Bush.
His advisers and entourage have skillfully exploited the widely prevalent mood of guilt in the US to project him as a transformational figure (to quote Colin Powell) the like of which comes but rarely. Vote for Obama and vote for all that that is good and great in the US.
The liberals—- in the civil society, in the media, among the opinion-makers— have made Obama seem a cult figure. For them, it will be blasphemous to ask questions about his past, to find out who he really is.
Had a white been the Democratic candidate like Senator John McCain, the Republican candidate, they would not have had the least qualms in researching into his past and in dissecting every inch of him.
How can one do it for a transformational, cult figure? Cult figures have to be accepted as such without questions. How can one do that for a Black, who is on the threshold of history by being the first Black to become the President of the US? To question his past and his credentials would be racist. So the American voters have been told.
Can anyone in the US or in the rest of the world assert that he knows Obama well —- his past and his present and what he will be in future? Future is the child of the past.
Obama is a mix of two vintages. The old pre-2006 vintage and the new post-2006 one. All his admirers know Obama of the new vintage. How many know Obama of the old vintage?
Very few. There is no desire to find out either.
Obama of the new vintage has nothing but the highest words of praise for India and Indians. He wants to continue with Bush’s policy of promoting a strategic relationship with India.
What about Obama of the old vintage? Cautious and reserved in exuding any warmth for India and the Indians lest his Pakistani friends and constituents misunderstand.
It is said that as a student he had more Pakistani friends than Indians. He felt more comfortable in the company of the Pakistanis than Indians. It was his choice and nobody could grudge it.
It was at the invitation of one of his Pakistani friends that he visited Islamabad, Karachi and Hyderabad (Sind) in the 1980s. Nobody can hold that against him.
As an Indian, one will be but human if one felt troubled that he did not disclose this till he became the Presidential candidate. He disclosed this—-as if in passing— when it was alleged that he did not understand the Islamic world and its divisions. He mentioned his visit to Pakistan to show that he knew about the divisions in Islam, about the Shia-Sunni differences.
Why did he keep mum on his visit to Pakistan till this question was raised? Has he disclosed all the details regarding his Pakistan visit? Was it as innocuous as made out by him—-to respond to the invitation of a Pakistani friend or was there something more to it?
One would have expected the US journalists to have gone into this, to have quizzed him on it. But, they didn’t.
As I read about Obama’s visit to Pakistan in the 1980s, I could not help thinking of dozens of things. Of the Afghan jihad against communism. Of the fascination of many Afro-Americans for the jihad. Of the visits of a stream of Afro-Americans to Pakistan to feel the greatness of the jihad. Of their fascination for Abdullah Azzam, who came to Pakistan in the 1980s and started teaching in the International Islamic University in Islamabad. Of the frequent visits of Cat Stevens, the pop singer, to Pakistan and of his fascination for Islam and the on-going jihad. Of his conversion to Islam.
One might think that I am morbid in entertaining such thoughts and questions in my mind. But morbidity is understandable when one has a feeling that one has not been told the whole story, but only a part of it.
It is the right of the Americans to decide who should be their President. It is my right to worry about the implications of their decision for the rest of the world, including India.
Obama: Dangers of Indo-Pak Re-Hyphenation ( http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers30/paper2916.html ) From my article of November 5,2008)
His (Obama’s) pronouncements on India and Pakistan, which were music to the ears of people in India in the initial months of the campaign, became jarring during the closing days of the campaign. In the initial months of his campaign, he praised India and supported the initiatives taken by the Bush administration in relation to India. He was very critical of Pakistan’s inadequate co-operation with the US in the war against Al Qaeda. He also criticized the Bush Administration for giving to Pakistan weapons, which it could use only against India and not against Al Qaeda, under the pretext of strengthening its counter-terrorism capability. He hardly spoke of Indo-Pakistan issues.
But as the campaign reached its culmination, he started speaking of the Kashmir issue in a language, which reminded one of the language of the past from the officials of the Clinton Administration. Obama’s entourage and Gen. David H.Petraeus, former Commander of the Multi-National Force in Iraq, who took over as the Commander of the US Central Command on October 31 and is presently on a visit to Pakistan and Afghanistan, have one thing in common—- they listen a lot to the assessments and recommendations of Ahmed Rashid, the Pakistani analyst, who has written extensively on the Taliban and the war against terrorism. In fact, Petraeus has reportedly nominated Ahmed Rashid and Shuja Nawaz, the author of the recently published book on the Pakistan Army called “Crossed Swords”, as members of a brains trust to advise him on a new strategy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Ahmed Rashid has been arguing for some months now that the Pakistan Army cannot be expected to co-operate wholeheartedly with the US Armed Forces in the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban unless there is a forward movement in settling the Kashmir issue and India is pressured to cut down its presence in Afghanistan. There were not many takers for his arguments in the Bush Administration. But they have already started influencing the thinking of many who are close to Obama.
Will he exercise pressure on India on the Kashmir issue and its role in Afghanistan after he takes over or will he let his pre-election remarks remain without follow up action? This is a question which should worry Indian policy-makers.
Obama’s policy towards China is also likely to be different from that of the Bush Administration. He will continue to strengthen the US’ strategic relations with India, the foundations for which were laid by Bush and Rice, but the sensitivities of China and Pakistan could once again become inhibiting factors in determining the pace and extent of the relationship. He is unlikely to subscribe to the wisdom of building up India as a counter to China. That was the unstated wisdom behind the policies of the Bush Administration towards India.
Obama was supportive of the Indo-US Civilian nuclear co-operation Agreement. Many of the non-governmental experts, who were critical of the agreement, have a greater audience for their views in the Democratic Party than in the Republican Party. They would try to see that the Hyde Act is observed in letter and spirit in the implementation of the agreement. If their views prevail, one could see a slow-down in Indo-US co-operation in nuclear matters.
Under Bush, Indo-US relations developed like never before because he was a great admirer of India and was convinced of the need to encourage the emergence of India as a major Asian power on par with China. Obama has so far not given any indication of a similar admiration and conviction.
Barring John F.Kennedy, other Democratic Presidents were not very positive towards India. They always thought of India tactically and not strategically. Many major initiatives towards India came from Republican Presidents, who held office after Richard Nixon, whose dislike of India—- and particularly Indira Gandhi— was well-known. There was a new page in Indo-US relations under Bush. This was facilitated by the decline in the influence of some Washington-based think tanks and their academics on policy-making. With the return of a Democrat to the White House, these old academic warriors are already coming out of their eight-year-long hibernation and will try to influence the new President in his thinking and policies. Their views are no different from those of the like of Ahmed Rashid.
We should not hesitate to make it clear to the new administration that while we are as keen as before to strengthen our strategic relations with the US, this cannot be at the expense of our vital national interests in matters like Kashmir and Afghanistan.
From My Article of November 7,2008 http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers30/paper2917.html
In the history of Indo-American relations since India became independent in 1947, there have been more instances of meddling by Democrats than by Republicans. Democrats seem to think that they understand sub-continental affairs better than anybody in the US and find it difficult to resist the urge to meddle. That is why Indian security agencies feel uncomfortable when the White House has a Democrat as incumbent. They say that if one draws a graph of terrorism in J&K, one would find that it tends to go up when a Democrat is the President.
( The writer, Mr B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )